Yoga as Philosophy, Science and Art

B.K.S. Iyengar often said “When I practice, I am a philosopher. When I teach, I am a scientist. When I demonstrate, I am an artist.” These three aspects of yoga correspond with the three fundamental attributes of the Divine, which are Sivam, goodness, Satnam, truth, and Sundaram, beauty.

Awareness of these three aspects of yoga and of the Universal Divine Spirit can help bring balance to the way we practice.

The goal of philosophy is to achieve a state of goodness, and to develop an ethical framework for living. The term Sivam refers to that which is auspicious and positive. How can our yoga practice lead us toward a state of goodness?

We might consider whether our practice is motivated primarily by concerns of the ego, such as accomplishing a pose, constant improvement, or gaining praise or prestige. Could we instead approach the practice as a means of creating a storehouse of positive feelings, harmony and balance with ourselves? An auspicious yoga practice would be one without attachment to outcomes.

The goal of science is to seek truth, Satnam, and to learn about the nature of reality. A yoga practice can certainly be much like a scientist’s laboratory, in which we use trial and error to gain understanding.

What does it mean to be a seeker of truth in the way we practice? Perhaps we can become more observant of how a pose develops over time, and what approaches to a pose are the most effective. We can learn to be honest with ourselves about how to practice in a way that is appropriate to our unique condition and needs.

Finally, the appreciation of beauty, Sundaram, brings joy. We can approach our yoga practice with the intention to bring grace and elegance to each pose.

Postures do not need to be perfect to be beautiful. When we appreciate the beauty of nature, we may experience feelings of wonder and transcendence, yet we don’t demand that the sunset be perfect. Our own body is, of course, part of nature, and a miracle of creation, just as beautiful as the ocean or a mountain range.

One way to play with the aesthetic aspect of a pose is to pay attention to the transitions. How smooth, graceful and fluid can the movement be into and out of a pose? This consideration immediately changes the experience of practice to one that includes the idea of artistry.

In our teaching at Green Tara Yoga, we hope to bring the threefold search for goodness, truth and beauty into our approach. Visit our Schedule/Registration page and join us for a class soon!

Take a look at your approach to yoga practice. Are you more of a philosopher, scientist or artist? Try putting on some different hats and see how your practice grows. The path of yoga is an inward journey, and through it, we can all experience the good, the true and the beautiful.

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2 Responses to Yoga as Philosophy, Science and Art

  1. marti webster says:

    This is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you for expressing it so clearly!!

  2. I appreciate your kind words, Marti!

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